Tuesday, 17 January 2017


 Grind Writers News Jan 2017 

See it on Issuu here.
3 | Things to do at night by yourself
5 |  Lovin' Taylor's "barf" and Lamott's "shitty" first drafts
6 |  Vancouver writing. New West writing.
7 |  Literary Bran: the joys of regularity
9 |  Crapulous. Fard. Words that sound rude but aren't
11 | The photo writing prompt  JUST DO IT
12-15 | Submit.  (You know you want to)  MASSES OF MARKETS
16 | Local writing workshops of note

Friday, 6 January 2017

Writing prompt for the new year

A new year seems to take us on reflective journeys back in our lives. We re-examine our choices. We poke through the entrails of our history, looking at how we got here.  

When we think back on our various choices and journeys, we freqently find there was a pivotal moment when something happened or someone said something that nudged us down one path or moved us somehow to make a certain choice. We don't always see it at the time. 

The UK's Guardian newspaper invited their readers to describe times when conversations or advice from other people or some event swayed them towards something or affected them (positively or negatively) in some way. And of course things that seemed negative at the time can with hindsight seem to actually have been positive. 

Pivotal events can be quite small and seemingly insignificant. It might be picking up a brochure, seeing a sign, hearing a talk, answering a phone call, even a song on the radio. Or it can be about things people said or did that had a lasting effect on us or in our lives, sometimes even in damaging ways that we spend years clearing up.  

This prompt is a good one to get going on while we're still in the new year's reflective auld lang syne mode. 

Here are a few the stories. Read a few, reflect -- then set your timer and start writing whatever comes to mind. (Remember you can edit later; just get the gist down while it's flowing).

You may come up with several things at different times in your life. When you finish writing about one,  then expand it a bit answering, "How did that work out?" and write about the effect it had on your life til now

(c)2017 Margo Lamont

'She'll never realise the impact she had': life-changing conversations 
We asked readers to tell us about their most significant conversation, or a letter  

What some Guardian readers wrote. This is the link to the article.

Richard, 50, mortician, US
My wife of 18 years asked me to see if I could fix something on her computer.  In doing so, I found a journal she had written revealing she was in a “loveless, parenting partnership”.  This was news to me.  I didn’t confront her about it at the time, but she revealed an affair a couple of years later and our marriage ended.  We are now parenting partners by law, and not particularly friendly.

Carol Jeffery, New Hampshire, US
As a senior at university, I was making up for an incomplete in the only course I had taken that semester.  My professor, who had known me and my family since I was a toddler, asked me what I expected in my future.  I told him that I would be a dedicated teacher. 

“Dedicated?” he said, “You are the most cavalier person I know.” I was, at that moment, liberated from all the admonitions of my upbringing, and I have gratefully acknowledged his comment ever since.  I believe I have been true to my moral code.  I also think that I have had more fun than most people ever do.

Anonymous, doctor, 67, Hampshire
I was 14 and at an average private school.  It was the school my father had been to and his brother taught there, which I found uncomfortable.  My younger brother had just won a scholarship to a much better private school.  I was at a sports event with my father at my school and he got talking to another parent, who congratulated him on having clever children. 

My father indicated towards me and said, “No, he’s the dim one.” I remember the parent’s intake of breath and a surprised, “Oh.” I have never forgotten this.

It is shattering how one unguarded comment can resonate for a lifetime My father died at the age of 51, when I was 29.  It is shattering how one unguarded comment can resonate for a lifetime.  I feel that the very many things I have done in my professional life have been to try to prove him wrong.

2017 Grind Writers Meeting Schedule

Please email before you attend a meeting. Sometimes we change the venue if we have a field event, and there are some requirements before you come to a meeting. Thanks.

Email:  grindwriters@gmail.com


Jan 7

July 8
Jan 22
July 23
Feb 4
Aug 5
Feb 19
Aug 20
Mar 4
Sept 9
Mar 19
Sept 24
Apr 1
Oct 7
Apr 23
Oct 22
May 6
Nov 4
May 28
Nov 19
June 10
Dec 2
June 25
Dec 17

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Grind Writers schedule

Approximately every 2 weeks. Alternating on Saturdays & Sundays. Skips any weekend with a holiday.

Please do not show up without emailing first to:

Sun Oct 16
Sat Oct 29
Sun Nov 20
Sat Dec 3
--Winter break--
Sat Jan 7 2017

Getting & giving feedback

Grind Writers Group
Getting and giving feedback
by Margo Lamont

Getting feedback
If you’re going to read a piece, bring half a dozen paper printouts. Some people do not do well hearing things read aloud; they need to follow along in print.
  1. Do not argue and justify why you wrote this or did that. That takes up way too much time, then others don’t get a chance to read.
  2. Keep the introduction to the piece brief. If it’s not somehow obvious that it’s a poem or short story etc., say that. If it’s part of a larger work, give a brief synopsis. Did I say brief? What’s important is to stop talking and start reading.
  3. Before you read, ask some specific question(s) you actually have about your work, such as:  I’d like to know if you think character X is believable? Have I used too much dialect? Does the ending seem realistic? Does this excerpt make you want to hear more? etc. Otherwise you may get general comments (“That was good”) that are not very helpful.
  4. Basically you need to be quiet during feedback, unless there’s specifically something you don’t understand. It’s not a discussion time. Instead: just listen and make notes.
  5. If you feel someone has misinterpreted something you wrote: that may mean you need to re-write and clarify. If five people say they thought the action was taking place on another planet and it wasn’t – you need to fix that. This is exactly why you want feedback. Fresh eyes.
  6. Do not interrupt. And when they are finished, say thank you, but don’t talk -- just look for the next person to start their feedback.
  7. Use a grain of salt. Feedback is only one person’s opinion (unless 10 people say the same thing).
  8. You may find it useful to ask someone else to read your work out loud. It’s amazing what you notice when someone else reads your work out. It may not be the way it sounded in your head – but that can be a good thing to know.
  9. You don’t have to change anything based on feedback. It’s your piece. Some people may simply not like, or get, your style. Or you may be writing an experimental piece or writing in a genre and they are unfamiliar with its conventions. (It may be okay to explain some of that—but not at any length!)
  10. Revise the piece, then bring it to read again and see if the reactions have changed. You may need to do this several times.
  11. Keep in mind others want time to read their piece and get feedback.
  12. If people note down copy-edits on your manuscript, be thankful. They are helping you look the best you can on paper to an editor.
  13.  Read #1 again. It was #5 at first but I moved it to #1 position because it’s that important.

Giving feedback

It's very brave of someone to read their work ever, anywhere—and especially to a group of other writers.

  1. So when someone finishes reading, show your admiration by tapping your fingers on the table. You don't even have to like the piece to do that.
  2. Feedback should be fairly brief—and helpful; supportive.
  3. Do not talk about your work and your similar or experiences and your life as it seems to relate to the reader’s piece yada yada yada. This is about them and their work. Don’t launch into anecdotes.
  4. Keep it about their piece. Full stop.
  5. Our mantra: “We’re giving feedback about what’s on the page. Our feedback focuses on how to make it better. (It’s not about you).” (Thanks, George).
  6. Make sure the person has given you a couple of specific questions they’d like you to answer about the piece they're reading. General feedback is not very helpful. So stop them and say, “What is your question for us?”
  7. You want to send them away enthusiastic about continuing to write – and possibly with practical suggestions about how they might improve that piece of writing. However, it’s not your job to rewrite their story: you may not be able to solve internal manuscript problems, but that’s okay. Sometimes just becoming aware of an issue is useful.
  8. If you think what someone has read is complete crap, keep that to yourself. Harsh negative criticism does not help people keep on writing. And by keeping on writing their writing will improve. This does not mean you have to praise work you think is awful. But if that’s the only way you know how to say it, then know that there’s someone else who will be able to say it less damagingly.
  9. If there were places where you stopped reading because you were distracted, puzzling out something out that wasn’t clear, or even becoming bored – put a star in that place in the manuscript, and explain to them later what was going on. The last thing any writer wants is for a reader to stop reading and be in their own head. So we want to know about anything that interrupts the flow.
  10. If it’s not a genre you’re comfortable with, don’t feel you have to say anything.
  11. If the person receiving feedback starts to argue with you or provide justifications about why they wrote this or did that – hold your hand up and ask them to just take notes, knowing that yours is only one opinion. The idea is not to get into an extended dialogue during feedback. It takes up too much group time – and other people want to read and receive feedback as well. You can always talk to the person on the break or after the meeting.  
  12. Yes, do write your copy-edit suggestions on the manuscript if you notice typos, spelling errors, formatting errors, inconsistencies, anything like that. Copy editing is not nit-picking: it’s saving the person from sending an embarrassing manuscript full of errors to editors who will be highly distracted by errors because most of them have previously been copy editors. If there are way too many, perhaps offer to copy-edit the piece at another time.
  13. You do not need to list each misspelling or copy-edit at the out-loud feedback. Write it on the manuscript; talk to them  about it afterwards if necessary. If you don’t understand certain words, look them up.
  14. Read #2 again.

Very important:
If someone has received your piece by email, and has taken the time to proof and read it, take the time to send them a thank you. It’s very time-consuming to give a thoughtful good read to a piece and provide written feedback.

Something you'd like to add?
Please email your suggestions, your pet peeves about giving or getting feedback to: grindwriters@gmail.com.

If I use any of your suggestions they'll become part of my piece and under my copyright.

©2014 Margo Lamont

Monday, 27 June 2016


This was a Grind Writers’ free-write combined with a round robin write. Here's how it worked:
·         First we set the timer for a few minutes and we each created a writing prompt on separate sheets of paper.
·         Then we passed those prompts two people to the right. Set the timer again, and we each wrote to the prompt we received. We wrote on separate sheets of 8½ x11” paper.
·         After 5 minutes, we passed the writing we had done to the next person. We set the timer an wrote for another 5 minutes, carrying on from what the previous person had written.

You could carry this on, going completely around the table if you had time. We only did the two. Then we read them. Here is some of that output.  Person 1’s writing is in sans-serif font; person 2’s is in a serif font. We were writing fast and loose—by hand—so indecipherable words have a blank line.

You’ll find it interesting to see which of the writers carry on from the previous paragraph; which people just ignore the first person’s writing and take the thing in a different direction, sometimes even a contradictory one. 

Do people write in first person? Does anyone try other POVs? Did anyone put their contribution in verse? Or write screen dialogue? The field was wide open.

You might read some of the prompts and think that you would never find anything to say about that prompt -– and then perhaps be surprised to see what flowed out of others’ minds to that particular bit of inspiration.

And then maybe you’ll want to take a stab at some of those prompts yourself? We’d love if you shared your output with us.


Prompt:  Sincerity & Senselessness vs. Common Sense
Sincerity all the way. It’s all _____ senselessness I don’t care for. I need/want to feel. Common sense – it comes out of the multitude of us; it’s a generic common ground. Sincerity will pull me out of it if necessary. With sincerity I don’t look out yet ___ deep inside myself to grasp what is most authentic, most honest for me to say or do. I am willing to step out of line and offend somebody.
I’ve always loved you, I imagine myself saying, even though you tell me that’s not what I really think. Like I’m lying to myself. The doors are big and hollow; a gust of wind could blow me over, I think, if I wasn’t leaning against it. The only thing keeping me attached to my old world.
He’s with her. Three months.
If I’m to rest with myself, I’ll try her. Tell them both what I really feel.
10:05 - I need another pack of cigarettes.
10:14 – The beer here is so expensive. Ad it’s not like they’ll let me talk much. He’s so loud and she’s much more of a bitch than she used to be.
10:31  Yea, one more shot. Make it  double, neat.
11:52: They’ll ever listen.

Prompt:  Traffic jam.
The metal strips decorating his El Camino’s dashboard were like oven grates, frying our bodies locked in an iron cage on wheels, _____ing silently like the stuck fat pigs on a movable spit. 103 degrees, 111 with humidity, and he had to grab the chicken, fried chicken steak and waffles, bubbling fat and cholesterol and sugar blended together for the poor man’s health cocktail.
The way he saw it, the grease will keep the whole thing moist. I-5 traffic was a bitch right now, an accident on the bridge. Asshole rear-ended a Maserati, probably jealous of some Asian tech kid making it big. He’d probably had done the same, maybe. Marlene would skin his hide, what with the kids and the rent and the non-existent health insurance he told her he got last week. Jana’s teeth were crooked and Marlene wanted to get it fixed. His teeth were crooked . He’d turned out fine.
            He honked loudly. the bald black guy beside him grinned in comradery. The owner of the red Honda Civic in front flipped him the bird. The smell of waffles and fried chicken steak was making him nauseous.
Prompt:  The last time I took a trip I learned……
The last time I took a trip I learned that tripping is not easy. Well, okay, it’s easy, too easy actually—and a bit addictive, if you know what I mean. The brilliance of the food for all the senses, powering reactions, unexpected moments of exhilaration, but oh that disappointment, that crash when it’s over, when you come back home. I woke up the next day and decide to plan my next trips better. I opened my laptop and scrolled to read online. I wondered what excited me about a new destination, what meds more organized……… 

Prompt:  You are stuck on an island with 99 other people. The island is ruled by a dictator who has banned all mirrors and all communications between people.
All reflections are gone. no one speaks. No one moves without twitching nervously or looking around to see whether others have noticed what they’ve done. Mirrors are gone, shattered into microscopic pieces. They said they weren’t allowed. What to do then if we can’t look at ourselves? We then look at each other. It’s the only way to alleviate the boredom. I don’t know any of their names. Not allowed, they said.
Focus, breathe. Remember. Yes. Little did I realize when I signed up for this silent retreat just what that would mean, how much, how strong are my impulses to connect with other people. Silent sitting meditation for hours and hours.
            Empty the mind.
            Notice the thoughts. The feelings flitting across my consciousness. Cramp I left hip. Let them flit, let them go. My hip still hurts.

Prompt:  Leather skin.
Her hands from the dirt in the garden for years there were vegetables and traffic now outside  the garden where once there were just a few cars, ow there was a constant stream.
            She came out most mornings screen banging behind her my grandmother’s stucco house grey one story walking in the sun as children we spent hours picking the glass pieces off and secreting them away to our pockets in the garden she pushed her hands into dirt the way her mother showed her as a little girl she followed her mother across the garden she had her own little plot where she scattered seeds or sometimes pushed them. today she grew beets an carrots ad cucumbers.
            “Sarah,” her mom would say, “you need to cultivate your plants or they’ll never yield.”
            Sarah, four, wasn’t altogether sure she knew what cultivate meant. Or yield. But she would work quickly, and imitate what her sister Beatrice did, if only to get her mother to leave her alone for her real work. She worked quickly so she would have time, each day, to move to the remotest part of her small patch and—pretending to weed—she’d peer into the soil, under the plants, at the insects and…..

Prompt:  Glithy
Glithy – if this is a word, what might it mean? Mostly, good for a parlour game. Keep the others guessing.
Glithy – let me attempt to explore the sound, sight and images that arise from this od and unknown word. If my approach is onomatopoeic, I confront an entity both shiny an slick, arising from word associations to “glittery” and “slick.” But let me cast my gaze beyond the most obvious. Can I go further, deeper into the psychology or entomology of the word. I think of “lithesome”—a slim and graceful being, but must not overlook “pithy”—tough and strong.


Prompt:  When X died, I thought he would ever come back...
I’ve heard lots of stories about people who come back after they die; well I guess just ghost stories. I always figured that these ghosts or returning spirits might just be a fabrication in the mind of a living person that maybe their loss is so acute, the one left behind creates
He never really died. He appeared dead, but he woke up too early, after people left him. So it appeared he was a ghost He walked up fro the table, went home quietly and then proceeded to pack an ____ of his bags and straightened out his affairs. The police and the Interpol in England and France helped him to take his death. Some very bad people were after him. He packed everything, got all his money and passports, and ID and flew all the way to Olaine, Latvia to become Dave Seglins – or Dave Lorbergs – one of his Latvian ancestors. He spoke fluent Latvian. And it was arranged to stay with his many rich relations there. Sheiks. They were royalty, owning a lot of land. There he would be ______ playing Backgammon, cards, all ay in the local pubs.

Prompt:  Describe a memory with a tree.
Trees have always been somewhat majestical and mysterious, yet sturdy and safe, especially while I was young but still it seems to have a hold on me, today.  So many times my twin and I would go out and sit under a particular tree about (maybe) 50 yards from our front door. Between the door and the tree was a field of wild grasses and in spring the poppies and dandelions would shoot up, racing to capture the sun before the grass could overtake them. Once they were one, seeds and blooms blown away and dried, the grass would reign supreme, rising to two feet high before they would turn to seeds themselves. My cat Maples would disappear in there an I remember sitting on the porch, looking for movements.


Prompt:  Pathway.
The pathway underneath the bridge reminded me of my old school. Claustrophobic. I walked out and the light engulfed me. I walked along the left side. Old homes dotted the street, apartment buildings disrupted the flow of design. People were friendly.
         “Good morning,” said the woman with the large dog. I said good morning back and smiled.
         That was nice, I thought, as I continued walking Feels good to be here. Feels familiar. And people are friendly. I can relax now….
         “Excuse me.” I heard the woman again.
         I turned around quickly.
         She came back towards me with her large dog.
         “ I don’t think we’ve met,” she said. Her ice-blue eyes seemed to penetrate my soul.
         “No, I’m new around here.”

Prompt:  Fencepost.
Some poet said, “Fences make good neighbours” True. They keep people out, though, while protecting your property. Of course, they keep animals and kids in. A fence is basically a mini-wall. We’ve heard a lot about Walls lately. We’ve had several famous walls through the ages – the Great Wall of China – Hadrian’s Wall – and more recently The Berlin Wall which, when it came down was celebrated globally What walls do we put up, and why? It does always seem to be about self-protection—or hiding. We have firewalls to protect our data. Some argue that if we have nothing to hide then we wouldn’t mind. But thi is also about tone, attitude, plus bigotry, judgement, as well as perception. Look at many work camps, whether in Third World countries, prisons, concentration camps, etc.

Prompt:  A life ambition never realized.
·         Marriage
·         Children
·         PhD
·         Travelling the world
·         Full time work
·         Meeting The Queen and family
·         Meeting Nelson Mandela
·         Getting the Nobel Prize for Literature
·         Having a relationship with my father
·         Getting to know my Grandpa G_____
·         Having siblings
·         Stepfather
         She put the list down and walked outside. It was sunny and the grass was wet on her bare feet. The list remained in her head, lit up like a sign. So much undone. She wondered when the list had first formed. As a child, had she listed PhD as one of her ambitions? When did she first decide that marriage would be an ambition and not merely something that happened, often by accident? When did children stop being something to be avoided? And when did those items o the list slip from being needy things she would do tomorrow, or the next day, to things gone forever, lost into the sands of another person’s life, a person of the same shape and size of herself but whose life charted a different course, filled perhaps with the chaos of children, a half-angry husband, a house, a degree?